Train operator Avanti West Coast has been handed a short-term contract extension by the Department for Transport (DfT), the FirstGroup-owned company said.
The operator has struggled with reliability and punctuality during parts of the past year.
It even paid shareholders £11.5 million last year after receiving a franchise subsidy of £725 million by the government – despite being the UK’s worst-performing rail company.
Its contract was due to expire at the end of March but has been extended until October 15.
FirstGroup chief executive Graham Sutherland said: “We are working closely with Government and our partners across the industry to deliver a successful railway for our customers and communities.
“Performance at Avanti is steadily improving and, since the introduction of the new timetable in mid-December, the number of services has increased by more than 40 per cent compared to last summer, with more seats and better frequencies.
“Today’s agreement allows our team to continue their focus on delivering their robust plans to continue enhancing services for our customers, including further progress on our train upgrade and refurbishment programme.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said an improvement plan produced by Avanti West Coast after the DfT previously handed the operator a six-month contract renewal in October 2022 “is working”.
He said: “The routes Avanti West Coast run are absolutely vital, and I fully understand the frustrations passengers felt at the completely unacceptable services seen last autumn.
“Following our intervention, rail minister Huw Merriman and I have worked closely with local leaders to put a robust plan in place, which I’m glad to see is working.
“However, there is still more work to be done to bring services up to the standards we expect, which is why over this next six months further improvements will need to be made by Avanti West Coast.”
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